In the news lately have been an abundance of stories regarding global trade (primarily China/USA trade for obvious reasons), but there also is an issue, thankfully not in the United States yet, that is seriously affecting American farm family bottom lines.

African swine fever is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages. ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. It is not a food safety issue.

ASF is found in countries around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. More recently, it has spread through China, Mongolia and Vietnam, as well as within parts of the European Union. It has never been found in the United States – and we want to keep it that way.

The “we” in this case includes the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or “APHIS.” APHIS is responsible for helping to keep farm animal disease outbreaks under control or out of the U.S. completely. Next week, we will take an in-depth look at these unsung heroes of American agriculture and our animals.

ASF is a devastating, deadly disease that would have a significant impact on U.S. livestock producers, their communities and the economy if it were found here. There is no treatment or vaccine available for this disease. The only way to stop this disease is to depopulate all affected or exposed swine herds. In case that passed by you, it means that all pigs, whether farm animals or family pet pot-bellied pigs, would be killed and incinerated.

USDA APHIS is working closely with other federal and state agencies, the swine industry, and producers to take the necessary actions to protect our nation’s pigs and keep this disease out. This group is also actively preparing to respond if ASF were ever detected in our nation.

Anyone who works with pigs should be familiar with the signs of ASF:

High fever;

Decreased appetite and weakness;

Red, blotchy skin or skin lesions;

Diarrhea and vomiting; and

Coughing and difficulty breathing.

Immediately report animals with any of these signs to state or federal animal health officials or call USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593 for appropriate testing and investigation. Timeliness is essential to preventing the spread of ASF.

On-farm biosecurity is crucial to preventing any animal disease from developing and spreading. All pig owners and anyone involved with pig operations should know and follow strict biosecurity practices to help protect U.S. pigs from ASF. Work with your veterinarian to assess your biosecurity plans and make improvements as needed.

Don’t give ASF a ride! International travelers could unknowingly bring back this disease from an ASF-affected country, especially if they visit farms. Visit the APHIS traveler page to know which items you can bring back into the United States. Some food items may carry disease and threaten domestic agriculture and livestock. If you go to an ASF-affected country, do not bring back pork or pork products.

This is how the disease made its way to Europe. Some unknowing traveler brought tainted meat onto the continent and it spread before they knew it. APHIS is diligently scouring the port looking for tainted animals or meats. A full container of pork was recently confiscated at the port of New York. The meat inside was found to be contaminated with ASF.

Declare any international farm visits to U.S. Customs and Border Protection when you return. Make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect, or dispose of, any clothing or shoes that you wore around pigs, before returning to the U.S. Do not visit a farm, premises with pigs, livestock market, sale barn, zoo, circus, pet store with pot-bellied pigs, or any other animal facility with pigs for at least five days after you return.

Upcoming Events

Aug. 26--VQA Steer Take Up.

Aug. 28--VQA Heifer Take Up.

Sept. 2--Russell County Fair.

Sept. 3--Smyth County Safety Grant Applications Available.

Sept. 8-13--National County Ag Agents’ Meeting, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Sept. 9--Washington County Fair.

Sept. 26-29--Chilhowie Apple Festival.

Sept. 27-Oct. 6--State Fair of Virginia.

Oct. 2--Pesticide Disposal (Commercial and Homeowners), Supergro, Seven Mile Ford.

Oct. 4--Deadline to Consign Calves for the Nov. 6 VQA Sale.

Oct. 5--Hokie Bugfest, Squires Student Center, Blacksburg.

Oct. 9--Smyth County AG Day for 4th Graders, WL Hanger, Chilhowie.

Nov. 1--Deadline to Consign Calves to December VQA Sale.

Nov. 6--VQA Sale, Tri State Livestock Market, 7 p.m.

Nov. 11--VQA Steer Take Up, Tri-State.                

Nov. 13--VQA Heifer Take Up, Tri State.

Nov. 18--Smyth County Farm Management/Private Pesticide Recertification Meeting, 6 p.m, Farm Bureau Building in Marion.

Nov. 20--Pesticide Recertification, 8:30 a.m., Smyth County Extension Office.

Dec. 4--VQA Sale, Tri State Livestock Market, 7 p.m.

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Dr. Andy Overbay is Smyth County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

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